Having the agreement of a faculty member to review your application as a potential supervisor is a competitive advantage in submitting an application (though not a guarantee of admission) and is required for some UNBC programs.
Finding a prospective supervisor starts with searching our Find a Supervisor directory and program pages to find a faculty member whose research focus aligns closely with your area of interest. Once you have identified a faculty member you are enthusiastic about potentially working with, you should reach out by email. Review our guidelines below BEFORE approaching a potential supervisor.
Faculty members receive a lot of inquiries from potential students so you will want to make your initial inquiry relevant, concise and specific. Here are some tips on approaching a potential supervisor:
- Research the faculty member first. Review their published work and, if they have one, their profile or website. Make sure you understand their research and areas of interest.
- Use our standard subject line. In your email subject, use this format: Supervisory Inquiry: Your Name, program applying to, Semester of admission. Example: "Supervisor Inquiry: Jane Smith, MSc NRES, Fall 2023)". This will help our professors triage applicants who have reviewed our guidelines first.
- Be specific in your email. In order to stand out, instead of writing "Dear Professor", address the faculty member by their title (e.g. "Hello Dr. Smith"). Faculty members receive unsolicited emails sent to multiple people at one time and this can make it difficult for them to prioritize a serious inquiry. Generic emails will not receive a reply.
- Be brief in your introduction. Provide a quick summary of who you are and your academic qualifications. Highlight a couple of your areas of strength/features as a prospective student.
- Connect to their research. In your email approach, you should demonstrate you understand their active areas of research and briefly outline how this fits with your intended area of research.
- End on a thank you. In concluding your email, thank the faculty member for taking time to review your request.
- Be patient waiting for a reply. Start this process early. It may take time to hear back and you don't want to leave this to the last minute.
- Ask permission. After you have engaged in a dialogue, ask if they would be comfortable with you referencing them as a prospective supervisor in your application. Remember - a faculty member's agreement to consider your application is not a guarantee of admission.
Our faculty members are excited to work with new graduate students and welcome serious inquiries. You will want your request to stand out - some faculty members receive hundreds of requests to supervise annually! With that in mind, here are some pitfalls to avoid:
- Don't send a generic inquiry. Follow the guidance above. An email like the example below is unlikely to receive a reply.
- Don't email multiple professors at once. You need to demonstrate a linkage between your area of intended research and the prospective supervisor's expertise. By emailing more than one professor (especially in a single email), you are signalling that your inquiry is not focused and intentional.
- Don't expect an instant reply. If you've followed our guidance and sent a thoughtful and well-developed approach, it still may take some time to hear back from a professor. We encourage you to start your application process early to leave time for a reply. Avoid sending multiple follow up emails.
Remember: use our standard subject line in your email (e.g. "Supervisor Inquiry: Jane Smith, MSc NRES, Fall 2023"). This will help your email get noticed.
There are a lot of great resources on the Internet about how to approach a prospective supervisor that you may wish to consult. Here are some links to get you started:
- Dear Dr. Neufeld (an article from a Professor with an annotated sample approach email).
- How to Find a Supervisor for your PhD (a guide from Oxford with good general advice).
- So, you want to go to grad school? Nail the inquiry email (from a STEM perspective).